Border Security: Texas bill signed into law allowing state to arrest migrants, challenging federal authority

Texas Governor Greg Abbott and several other state leaders were on hand as the governor signed three new border security bills into law, including one which could open a challenge federal immigration law.

The signing in Brownsville included Senate Bill 3, which provides $1.5 billion for border security, Senate Bill 4, which makes illegal entry into Texas a state crime, and Senate Bill 4 from the Third Special Session, which increases the minimum sentence from two years to 10 years for smuggling immigrants or operating a stash house.

The bills were passed during recent sessions of the Texas Legislature. 

The $1.5 billion provided by SB3 will be used to pay for approximately 100 miles of border barrier infrastructure. It will also provide an additional $40 million to fund overtime for Texas DPS troopers working border security operations.

"Ronald Reagan once said ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall,’ I say to Joe Biden, Mr. Biden build up that wall," said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

SB4 creates a state crime for illegal entry from a foreign nation. It would allow state and local law enforcement officers to arrest people who illegally enter, or re-enter, at the border.

Once in custody, they could either then agree to a Texas judge’s order to leave the U.S. or be prosecuted on misdemeanor charges of illegal entry. Migrants who don’t comply could face arrest again under more serious felony charges.

Under the Texas law, migrants ordered to leave would be sent to ports of entry along the border with Mexico, even if they are not Mexican citizens.

The bill is controversial, because Democrats say it violates the Constitution, maintaining that only the federal government only has the power to classify and determine the admission and the expulsion of non-citizens.

"We believe this law has been crafted in a way that can and should be upheld in courts on its own," said Abbott. 

The governor also said that the law opens up the opportunity to challenge the precedent set in 2012's Arizona v. United States, which found that Arizona's state immigration laws conflicted with federal immigration laws.

The ruling would be heard by the Supreme Court's new conservative majority.

The ACLU of Texas posted on social media that they plan to challenge the legislation in court.

Thirty former U.S. immigration judges, who served under both Republican and Democratic administrations, signed a letter this month condemning the measure as unconstitutional.

Immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility. But Texas Republicans have increasingly blurred those boundaries under President Joe Biden, saying his administration isn’t doing enough to stop people from entering the country illegally. Texas has bused more than 65,000 migrants to cities across America and installed razor wire along the banks of the Rio Grande, which has snagged and injured some asylum-seekers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report